First look: New Orleans Saints take on Carolina Panthers Sunday _lowres

Associated Press photo by BOB LEVERONE -- New Orleans Saints running back Mark Ingram scores a touchdown in the second half of last year's game against the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte, N.C.


Yes, Carolina, the Saints can win on the road. It had been nearly a year since New Orleans won away from New Orleans, but you could say this one was in some ways worth the wait. This was a big one, a 28-10 victory over the Panthers that put the Saints into first place. New Orleans parlayed strong, mistake-forcing defense for the second straight week and some clutch offense to produce a winning effort. The difference was the Saints didn’t beat themselves, at least not too much. Two early turnovers sabotaged two promising drives, but the Saints were resilient.


The Saints defense. This unit looked lost and confused earlier in this season, especially on the road, but this is two straight promising weeks for Rob Ryan’s unit counting Sunday’s home win over the Packers. The defense kept the Panthers scoreless in the first half despite those early Saints turnovers and set a tone when Junior Galette sacked Cam Newton and forced a fumble at the Carolina 4 to set up Mark Ingram’s first touchdown. Overall, the Saints recorded four sacks and allowed only 122 net yards through the air on 10-of-28 passing.


This was a mighty tough assignment for the Saints, coming here on such short notice after Sunday night’s victory over the Packers in such a big game. But now that the Saints have pulled it off, what a confidence booster this can be for New Orleans. The Saints are only 4-4, yes, but they survived an adverse schedule to start the season and their own flaws to stand atop the NFC South at the halfway point. There’s a long way to go, but the future looks incredibly brighter than it did just five days ago.